October Garden


by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener




Some may think that, with the arrival of the cooler weather of fall, garden duties become less.  I find that not so true.  There are still many things to do, including some planting for the next   growing season.  Planting garlic for next years  harvest, sowing a cover crop and digging up dahlias and cannas are just a few of the chores to get done before winter weather sets in.

In the spring, canna clumps can be planted as is or divided. Make sure there are new growth buds in each division.

October is garlic planting time.  Purchase garlic meant for seed.  Commercial garlic that you buy in the grocery store may have been treated to inhibit sprouting.  Plant individual cloves root end down (pointed end up) 2 inches deep and 8 inches apart.  Garlic likes well-drained, compost- amended soil.  Once the ground has frozen, cover the garlic bed with 6 inches of straw or some shredded leaves to protect it from the winter weather.

Dahlias should be cut back after the first light frost to about three to four inches.  Carefully lift the plants from the ground and leave them to dry for only a few hours.  Pack them in a box between layers of sawdust, vermiculite or peat moss.  Store them at 35 to 40 degrees F.

Cannas do not need to be dug until we have had a hard frost.  Cut the stalks back to about three to four inches and let them dry in a warm place for one to two weeks.  Brush off the dirt and dust them with a fungicide.  Cannas do not need to be covered and can be stored in a shallow box.  Store them in a cool, dark place at 40 to 50 degrees F.

Keep your trees and shrubs well watered, including evergreens, especially those that were newly planted this season until the ground freezes.  Woody plants may look like they have gone dormant, but their roots are still active until late in the season.  The foliage of evergreens can be damaged by the drying effects of winter wind and sun, especially if they are planted in a southern or western exposure.  The use of burlap screens can help protect them.

If you have had your soil tested, now is the time to add any needed amendments.  Doing so will have your garden ready for spring planting.

When cleaning your flower garden this fall remember to leave some of the seed heads for the birds.  The seed heads of plants like purple coneflower (Echinacea), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), coreopsis and cosmos will provide tasty treats for birds such as goldfinches.

My favorite fall chore is to pot up some spring bulbs for forcing.  Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and any other spring bulbs that need a cold treatment will work.  It is not recommended to mix up different kinds of bulbs in the same pot unless you know they will all bloom at the same time.  Place the well-watered pots in cold storage (35 to 45 degrees) for 12 to 16 weeks.  Check on them now and then and water when the soil is dry.  After they have had a sufficient cold treatment, bring them into a warm, sunny location to enjoy their pre-spring beauty.


As always, Happy Gardening!


More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.  The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.